A medical worker in a protective suit conducts a nucleic acid test for a resident, following a new outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Beijing, China, on June 20, 2020.

Tingshu Wang/Reuters

The virus sequence seen in the recent outbreak in Beijing is most likely related to the European strain, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Dr. Michael Ryan, who is the WHO’s executive director of the Health Emergencies Program, said: “What it’s saying most likely is that the disease was probably imported from outside Beijing at some point.”

WHO’s announcement comes a day after Chinese officials released data showing the gene sequence of the COVID-19 virus that broke out in Beijing’s Xinfadi market last week.

One CDC official said that while the virus strain is from Europe, it seems to be an older version of what is currently spreading across the continent.

More than 200 new cases of the virus have been reported in the Chinese capital since June 11. Officials are trying to clamp down on the outbreak as much as possible, testing 2.3 million people so far.

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World Health Organization (WHO) officials have said the coronavirus sequence in the latest Beijing outbreak is most likely related to the European strain.

Speaking at a press conference on Friday, WHO’s executive director of the Health Emergencies Program, Dr. Michael Ryan, said the outbreak in Beijing appears to be a human-to-human transmission and not another cross-species infection. 

Related: How We Know COVID-19 Wasn’t Made in a Lab

“What it’s saying most likely is that the disease was probably imported from outside Beijing at some point,” Ryan said, adding that “establishing when that happened and how long the chain of transmission is important.”

WHO’s announcement came a day after the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officials released data revealing the gene sequence of the COVID-19 virus that broke out in Beijing’s Xinfadi market last week.

CDC official Zhang Yong said that while the virus strain is from Europe, it seems to be an older version of what is currently spreading across the continent.

Story continues

Zhang said of the data: “According to preliminary genomic and epidemiological study results, the virus is from Europe, but is different from the virus currently spreading in Europe. It’s older than the virus currently spreading in Europe.”

Experts believe that imported frozen foods used at the wholesale market could have been contaminated with the virus during packaging or transportation, according to Sky News.

Yang Zhanqiu, deputy director of the pathogen biology department at Wuhan University, told the Global Times: “In regard to the route of virus transmission into Beijing from Europe, if confirmed, it is likely the virus remained in imported frozen food where it lurked in dark and humid environment and then exposed to local visitors to the market,”

There were more than 200 new cases of the virus reported in the Chinese capital since June 11. The outbreak has been linked to Xinfadi food market in the southwest of the city after traces of COVID-19 were found on several chopping boards.

Beijing officials have tried to clamp down on the new outbreak as swiftly as possible, banning inter-provincial tourism, shutting down schools, and suspending sports events.

Since the outbreak, around 2.3 million coronavirus tests have also been conducted across the capital, which has a population of approximately 20 million people.

 

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